1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Are conferences worth attending nowadays?

  1. Nov 18, 2012 #1
    I'm trying to justify spending part of my grant going to a conference.

    Are conferences even relevant anymore? Has anyone here got a job from networking at conferences?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Why do you think they're not relevant? What would you spend your grant money on instead of a conference that you feel would be more useful to you?

    You might doubt that networking at conferences is very effective, and maybe it's not, but it does happen, so if you are not networking at whatever you're doing instead of the conference, then not going to the conference is of course less effective than going.

    Conferences are more than just about networking, too. People typically list the conferences they have attended and given talks at on their CV's. If you don't attend any conferences, it may make it look like you have no interest in communicating your work to other scientists.
  4. Nov 18, 2012 #3
    I'm not saying they are not relevant, but I suspect they might not be as relevant as they used to be because of the internet.

    20-30 years ago, it would be a really good way to hear what everyone was up to. Nowadays journals, websites, emails, etc make it so easy to find out what people are doing. They seem like an anachronism.

    Going to conferences just as CV padding seems a bit of a weak reason. I'm asking if anyone has had any really positive experiences from conferences (other than swanning off to foreign hotels, etc).
  5. Nov 18, 2012 #4
    I prepared a detailed reply why going to conferences is not only interesting but imho vital. But in the end it boils down to the following:
    1) If you haven't attended at least a few conferences, you are (imho) not a proper scientist. Most PhD programs I am familiar with explicitly require students to attend at least one conference. In fact, even Master's programs do.
    2) If you do have attended several conferences but still fail to see the point in it, then I am in no position to lecture you.
  6. Nov 18, 2012 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    One major advantage of going to a conference is that for the three days or so that your'e there you can focus exclusively on what's happening in your field. Yes, with online access you can read papers instantly, you can access preprint servers, etc., but the act of going to a conference, in my opinion gives you the ability to shut out your other responsibilities for a few days and focus. And that's pure gold.

    Another comes through informal conversation. You can chat with people that are working on stuff that's similar to what you're doing and get the "story behind the story." How confident are they really with what they're presenting? What are they working on next? What resources do they have available to them or what are the planning to get? What have they tried that wasn't successful that they never bothered to publish and thus what can you avoid wasting time on?

    Informal conversation with people you may not otherwise associate with is one of the cornerstones of creativity. So the story goes, when Steven Jobs set up Pixar Studios, he put all the washrooms in the centre of the facility, and this was supposed to trigger those spontaneous conversations that give both people new ideas.

    Since I am a medical physicist, I have relationships with various commercial companies. Conferences are an opportunity to find out about what the next release of software is going to contain, or what's so great about the three devices I'm considering for purchase in our new centre. It gives you an oppotunity to talk with the developers and trainers and get your hands on the stuff that's new.

    Finally, in my field networking at conferences is huge. As a prospective candidate, they give you an opportunity to meet the different people who work in a facility, to find out by work of mouth who might be hiring in six months when you plan on gaduating, and to present yourself informally. Often hiring decisions can come down to how much the people on the hiring committee like you and if you've gone to a "night out" with them, it can make the decision that much easier. As a prospective employer, you get the same opportunities from the other end.
  7. Nov 18, 2012 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    In my experience, going to conferences and doing well there[1] is the single most important thing in your career that you can actually influence. If even if you have twenty articles published in during your PhD, if no one knows you, you're not going to get hired.
    And then there is the additional point of actually learning what happens around you. At least in my field, conferences are a much better way of keeping track of who is up to what than is reading journals (not the least because often preliminary work is presented, and work you would not actually read in research articles if you had something else to do).

    [1](that is, speaking with people, getting to know everyone in your field, what everyone is up to; making an impression of yourself such that they recognize you)
  8. Nov 18, 2012 #7
    There are two reasons to attend a conference: One is to learn from others. The other is to meet people who can help you further your own research goals.

    If you don't get a whole lot of one, there is always the other. Yes, you could do both of these things on the Internet. However, nothing beats face to face discussions and discourse.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook